You can choose not to pay attention to grammar. You can also choose not to have clients or customers. It turns out that, very often, those choices go hand in hand.
Of course you don’t want to appear stiff, stuffy, or overly formal on your website. But a “casual Friday” approach to writing means taking off your metaphorical necktie, not showing up dressed for a college frat party. You can (and should) adopt a friendly tone when addressing your readers. At the same time, you must always bear in mind that keeping a professional face on things means maintaining a layer of reserve. Close attention to spelling, grammar, punctuation, and usage is an important step in that direction.
Choose a Tone that Will Resonate With Your Ideal Clients
We don’t like to talk about social class in the United States. Nevertheless, it’s important to recognize that members of different socioeconomic classes will react to your website message in distinct ways. Properly shaping your message will allow you to attract the clients and customers you want the most.
For many highly skilled service providers, the ideal client is a member of the upper middle class or above. This population is accustomed to and comfortable with seeking advice from professionals—and they can usually be trusted to act on the advice they receive. They tend to be better educated, wealthier, and more cosmopolitan. They are often active learners who can partner effectively with you as a patient, law firm client, or service customer.
People with lower socioeconomic status may also have critical service needs that you can address; indeed, they tend to have more desperate needs for your services than your optimal customers. At the risk of over-generalizing, these prospects are often less appealing as clients, if only because they demand so much more of your time. They are more likely to be suspicious of experts and authority, and this means they might resist your advice at critical points. They are often insular and less educated, and so may not have the background to evaluate their situations or your instructions.
And yet they are sensitive to being patronized. Your attempts to dumb down your professional website won’t earn you favorable attention. Instead, your potential lower-class customers will feel that you’re mocking them. Your “good ol’ boy” pose will strike them as false—a poorly masked form of snobbery.
In the meantime, your upper-class prospects will be unimpressed by your ungrammatical writing style. Some will think you’re just lazy, or that you farmed out the writing to someone who may not be a native English speaker. Some will think you’re simply incompetent. None will be encouraged to stick around.
Informal Writing for Professional Websites: How Far Is Too Far?
So, as a rule, stick to following the formal rules of grammar and allow your warm, familiar tone to engage readers.
But you can also earn the right to throw away the most rigid rules, now and then. Once you have proved—by producing lots of great content—that you have mastered grammar, you can occasionally bypass the rules. Use “who” instead of “whom.” Split an infinitive, if rewording the sentence would sound awkward. Oh, and sentence fragments! Sentence fragments can really add punch to a paragraph, when they’re used as a rare and exotic spice.
Some things should remain out of bounds for any professional website, of course. No swearing. No instant messaging abbreviations. No emoticons. If you’re at all uncertain, then favor the conservative, classic approach. But if you want the option to be less formal at times, then earn the right to do so by first demonstrating to your readers that you understand the rules and that you’re deliberately choosing to flout them.
Need more specific guidance? Our professional content writing and editorial services are always ready to advise you on an informal, relaxed approach that will win over your online audience and make you a local celebrity for your expertise and wit. Call 888.886.0939 for a FREE evaluation of your current website content and a game plan to get you the clients or customers you want to see.